Preventing Dry Rot in Wood

A popular option for boat floors is natural wood as it provides a classic look, high durability, and degrades gracefully. In other words, wood floors age well over time with standard wear. However, dry rot is an often overlooked enemy of wood which is a great cause for concern in a maritime environment like that of the floor on a boat.

boat wood dry rotContrary to its name, dry rot is caused by prolonged exposure to moisture. Mix that with a lethal combination of naturally found sea fungus and you have a problem that promises to destroy the life of your wooden floor. When fungi meet a bit of moisture in an inviting environment like the pores of your deck, it can compromise the integrity of the wood. And as it loses strength it crumbles, flakes, and breaks, ending up as a costly replacement bill and major headache.

Dry rot is actually a bigger problem when the boat is in storage rather than out in open sea. That’s because many boat owners tend to cover their boats to keep dirt and dust away or put them in a storage area that is too moist. Without air flow, the moisture in the wood is retained, increasing its susceptibility to dry rotting. At least out in the open waters the wood flooring is exposed to wind and sun, which gives it a chance to dry out.

To prevent dry rot, make sure the boat is stored in a well ventilated area. This means places like the dark, humid storage shed out back are a big no-no. To aid with drying out, it helps to remove everything you can from your boat. Just removing the seat cushions will do wonders to increase air flow as these objects are known to retain water and thus don’t give your wood a chance to dry. Any potential moisture retainers should be removed from the boat before storage.

While it makes good sense to cover your boat with some sort of protective barrier when you’re not using one, one that is made from plastic can actually do more harm than good. Plastic or synthetic rubber are common materials found in many commercial boat covers and these are just large moisture traps. By trapping all that water and moisture in your boat, you are inviting dry rot to invade your wooden floor by the time you use it for the next boating season. Instead, try to use covers made from cotton or any other breathable fabric that will allow your wood to breath while it remains stored. A cotton cover will still offer you protection from dirt, insects, and dust without compromising the integrity of the floor.

If you have been fortunate enough to maintain a relatively good condition wood floor up until now and want to know what preventative measures you can take, you can actually limit the chance of dry rot by sealing your wood floor with epoxy. Epoxy is basically a glue which you can use to coat the surface of the floor. The epoxy will bind to the microscopic wood pores and effectively seal it from any moisture or fungus from getting in. If any fungus does get it, it will not get a chance to spread as the epoxy does double duty to seal off oxygen from coming in contact with the wood. Without oxygen to live, the fungus cannot grow and spread into dry rot. Sealing your wood with epoxy will keep moisture, fungus, and oxygen out and prolong the life of your floor.

By understanding the cause of dry rot and following some common sense guidelines when it comes to storage, you should be able to prevent dry rot from ever ruining your boat floor. Keeping moisture out and allowing for good ventilation is key. As a preventative measure you can also seal the floor with an epoxy coat and extend the life of the wood even further. By following these practices you’ll be able to stop dry rot from ever becoming a problem so you can focus more of your time on enjoying your boat.

Last Revision: May 9, 2017

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